The Contract with America was a legislative agenda advocated for by the United States Republican Party during the Congressional election campaign. Written by Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey , and in part using text from former President Ronald Reagan 's State of the Union Address , the Contract detailed the actions the Republicans promised to take if they became the majority party in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.
Many of the Contract's policy ideas originated at The Heritage Foundation , a conservative think tank. The Contract with America was introduced six weeks before the Congressional election, the first midterm election of President Bill Clinton 's Administration, and was signed by all but two of the Republican members of the House and all of the Party's non-incumbent Republican Congressional candidates. Proponents say the Contract was revolutionary in its commitment to offering specific legislation for a vote, describing in detail the precise plan of the Congressional Representatives, and broadly nationalizing the Congressional election.
Furthermore, its provisions represented the view of many conservative Republicans on the issues of shrinking the size of government, promoting lower taxes and greater entrepreneurial activity, and both tort reform and welfare reform.
Critics of the Contract describe it as a political ploy and election tool designed to have broad appeal while masking the Republicans' real agenda and failing to provide real legislation or governance.
The elections resulted in Republicans gaining 54 House and 9 U. Senate seats. When the Republicans gained this majority of seats in the th Congress , the Contract was seen as a triumph by party leaders such as Minority Whip Newt Gingrich , Dick Armey , and the American conservative movement in general. The contract's text included a list of eight reforms the Republicans promised to enact, and ten bills they promised to bring to floor debate and votes, if they were made the majority following the election.
On the first day of their majority in the House, the Republicans promised to bring up for vote, eight major reforms:. During the first one hundred days of the th Congress, the Republicans pledged "to bring to the floor the following [ten] bills, each to be given a full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote, and each to be immediately available for public inspection".
The text of the proposed bills was included in the Contract, which was released prior to the election. These bills were not governmental operational reforms, as the previous promises were; rather, they represented significant changes to policy.
They mainly included a balanced budget requirement, tax cuts for small businesses, families and seniors, term limits for legislators, social security reform, tort reform, and welfare reform.
The contract had promised to bring to floor debate and votes 10 bills that would implement major reform of the federal government. When the th Congress assembled in January , the Republican majority sought to implement the Contract. In some cases e.
The National Security Restoration Act and The Personal Responsibility Act , the proposed bills were accomplished by a single act analogous to that which had been proposed in the Contract; in other cases e.
The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act , a proposed bill's provisions were split up across multiple acts. Most of the bills died in the Senate, except as noted below.
An amendment to the Constitution that would require a balanced budget unless sanctioned by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress H. City of New York , U. An anti-crime package including stronger truth in sentencing , "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions H. An act to discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by reforming and cutting cash welfare and related programs. This would be achieved by prohibiting welfare to mothers under 18 years of age, denying increased Aid to Families with Dependent Children AFDC for additional children while on welfare, and enacting a two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
The Act was vetoed by President Clinton, but the alternative Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which offered many of the same policies was enacted August 22, An act to prevent U. An act to institute " loser pays " laws H.
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Although this was listed as a single bill in the Contract, its provisions ultimately made it to the House Floor as four bills:. An amendment to the Constitution that would have imposed year term limits on members of the US Congress i. House — a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, not a simple majority , March 29, ; RC Other sections of the contract include a proposed Family Reinforcement Act tax incentives for adoption, strengthening the powers of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and elderly dependent care tax credit and the Senior Citizens Fairness Act raise the Social Security earnings limit, repeal the tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance.
A November 13, , article by Edward H. Some observers cite the Contract with America as having helped secure a decisive victory for the Republicans in the elections; others dispute this role, noting its late introduction into the campaign.
Whatever the role of the Contract, Republicans were elected to a majority of both houses of Congress for the first time since , and some parts of the Contract were enacted. Most elements did not pass in Congress , while others were vetoed by, or substantially altered in negotiations with President Bill Clinton , who would sarcastically refer to it as the "Contract on America".
As a blueprint for the policy of the new Congressional majority, Micklethwait and Wooldridge argue in The Right Nation that the Contract placed the Congress firmly back in the driver's seat of domestic government policy for most of the th Congress, and placed the Clinton White House firmly on the defensive. George Mason University law professor David E. Bernstein has argued that the Contract "show[ed] Lopez more viable".
Journalist and senior congressional reporter Major Garrett equated the Contract with a game of miniature golf, "fun, popular, and largely diversionary exercise meant to satisfy middle-class sensibilities", contrasted with the golf of governing America and leadership. Republicans interviewed by Garrett when the Contract was being compiled said it was meant to be a political document of easy goals, not a governing document, with one senior aide explaining, "We don't care if the Senate passes any of the items in the contract.
It would be preferable, but it's not necessary. If the freshmen do everything the contract says, they'll be in excellent shape for ". In , business and finance writer John Steele Gordon , writing in The American, an online magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute , said that " t he main reason for the Republican victory in was surely the Contract with America", in part because it "nationalized the election, making it one of reform versus business as usual.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with the Contract from America , Conservatism portal.
Retrieved February 16, Orange County Register. September 6, New York: Penguin Press.
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Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio. Public Affairs. Roll Call.
August 8, Retrieved September 8, November 13, Cato Institute. The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, The American Society of Newspaper Editors. November 28, Archived from the original on July 25, The Volokh Conspiracy.
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Retrieved May 1, Bader, John B. Barnett, Timothy J. New York: Garland. Killian, Linda Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. Koopman, Douglas L. Pitney, John J. The Historical Significance of the Contract with America". Policy Review.
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